The Trailers



The Trailers was a very popular Singapore band in the 1960s. Formed in 1964 by Victor Woo and Eric Tan, the band was a regular feature at live music venues and events, and had released a number of commercially successful records. Among these were some original compositions. The band is best known for its original hits, “Do It Right” and “Don’t Laugh (You’ll Cry)”.1

Members
The Trailers was formed in September 1964 by Victor Woo, the lead guitarist, and Eric Tan who played bass guitar. They were joined later by Tony Zee on rhythm guitar and Suppiah on drums.2

The member line-up changed over time. Edmund Tan started out with the group as a rhythm guitarist and later doubled up as the lead vocalist, while Tony Zee replaced Suppiah on drums. In late 1963, the band invited Vernon Cornelius to be the lead vocalist (which he accepted). Cornelius was replaced in 1965 by Benny Koh,3 who became very popular with fans.4 The band also introduced Michael Teo on keyboard. Teo was eventually replaced by Jimmy Chan. Chan left in October 1967 and was replaced by Patrick Foo.5

As band members changed, so did the band’s style and sound. While The Trailers had started out playing instrumental music, the addition of Cornelius, with his flamboyance and showmanship, introduced vocals and gave the band a more professional image. His successor, Koh, had a vocal style that appealed to a younger audience, while keyboardist Teo created a more contemporary sound. Later, Chan’s playing popularised the use of keyboards. The band again changed its sound in its last record, which featured Woo and Eric Tan on the saxophone.

Several Trailers alumni, in particular Cornelius and Chan, went on to become members of The Quests, one of the most popular Singapore bands of the 1960s.6

Performances
From its inception, The Trailers had played at numerous events and venues, including tea dances and nightclubs, as well as on television and radio. These frequent public appearances made the band very popular as a live act. It formed The Trailers Enterprise in September 1965, offering packaged stage acts that featured singers and dancers.7 One such act was “Trailers Spectacular”, part of the Pop Favourites ’65 stage show at the Singapore Badminton Hall.8 There was also “Shindig-T”, part of the Pop Stars on Parade ’66 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.9

The band also performed regularly at New Penangway, the Golden Palace Sunday Tea Dance10 and the Early Bird Show at Odeon Cinema.11 Other venues included Hotel Malaysia (later known as Marco Polo Hotel),12 Goodwood Park Hotel13 and Barbarella at Ming Court Hotel.14

Record releases
The Trailers was one of the few bands in the 1960s to achieve commercial success with their record releases. Offered a recording contract by the Cosdel label in 1966, the band released its first single, “Do It Right”, in May that year, with “Thunderball” as the B-side track.15 The single knocked The Beatles off the top of the local music charts, staying at the top for seven weeks and on the charts for a record-breaking total of 14 consecutive weeks.16 The single hit 15,000 copies in sales.17 The band went on to score a second chart-topper with its next release, “Don’t Laugh (You’ll Cry)”.18


While many bands of the 1960s played cover versions of popular British and American songs,19 The Trailers was one of the few that wrote and recorded original compositions as well.20 Bassist Eric Tan penned some of the band’s most popular songs, such as “Do It Right”,21 “Run Away Hide” and “Quiver”.22

Disbandment
Lead guitarist Woo left the band in the 1970s to pursue a career in information technology,23 and was replaced by Derrick Danker.24 By 1972, The Trailers had given up recording due to the limited market for record releases,25 and disbanded soon after.26

Eric Tan worked for a number of years at The Straits Times and with an advertising agency. In 1981, his original composition “I Am What I Am” won the Outstanding Song award at the Singapore Phonogram Association’s Pop Song Festival.27

Since disbanding, The Trailers had reunited on several occasions to play for nostalgia and charity. These included the Thanks for the Memories concert in 198928 and Down Memory Lane charity concert in 2000.29 Most recently in November 2014, the band, with Victor Woo as lead guitarist, was one of several featured at a concert, Return to the Tea Dance, held at the Esplanade Concert Hall.30

Selected discography31
May 1966: “Do It Right” / “Thunderball”

Sep 1966: “Don’t Laugh (You’ll Cry)” / “Lucille”
Feb 1967: “Phoenix Theme” / “Lara’s Theme” / “Ding Dong Song” / “Ali San”
Aug 1967: “Quiver” / “Run Away Hide” / “Irene Goodnight” / “Mohair Sam”
Dec 1967: “Girl of My Dreams” / “You Only Live Twice” / “Come Back My Love” / “Be Faithful Be True”
Oct 1968: “I’m Ready Now” / “Raise Your Hand” / “Peter Gunn” / “Gimme A Little Sign”



Author

Joanna Tan



References
1. Cheong, V. (2008). Singapore ’60s pop music Hall of Fame – The Trailers. [Blog post]. Retrieved 2016, May 17 from blog: http://mocamborainbow.blogspot.com/2008/07/trailers.html
2. What’s new? Seven pussycats who’ve clawed their way to stardom. (1967, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 29, 30. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
4. What’s new? Seven pussycats who’ve clawed their way to stardom. (1967, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 33, 35. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
6. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 30, 31, 35, 135. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
7. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 30–31. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
8. Page 7 advertisements column 1. (1965, December 15). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Page 13 advertisements column 3. (1966, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
11. Bachtiar, I. (1989, September 1). Yesterday’s stars bring on the night. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Woo, V. (1996, August 17). Shouts and sing-alongs at tea dances. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
14. The Trailers hit the trail. (1972, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
16. Har, N. (1971, July 11). Good money in pop. The Straits Times, p. 13; What’s new? Seven pussycats who’ve clawed their way to stardom. (1967, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Lim, R. (1981, May 11). Eric did his lyrics so right. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. It’s rough, tough at the top and unlike real life felines these have only one life not nine. (1967, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. It’s rough, tough at the top and unlike real life felines these have only one life not nine. (1967, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. What’s new? Seven pussycats who’ve clawed their way to stardom. (1967, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Lim, R. (1981, May 11). Eric did his lyrics so right. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
22. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
23. Woo, V. (1996, August 17). Shouts and sing-alongs at tea dances. The Straits Times, p. 5; Mulchand, A. (2000, August 28). Trip down Memory Lane back to the 1960s and 1970s. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Low, J. (1970, October 24). Pop goes the band but the beat goes on. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
25. Har, N. (1972, May 14). Personal expression the essence of rock music. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Lim, R. (1981, May 11). Eric did his lyrics so right. The Straits Times, p. 3; Low, J. (1970, October 24). Pop goes the band but the beat goes on. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
27. Lim, R. (1981, May 11). Eric did his lyrics so right. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Ida Bachtiar. (1989, September 1). Yesterday’s stars bring on the night. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Mulchand, A. (2000, August 28). Trip down Memory Lane back to the 1960s and 1970s. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Revisit Singapore’s pop history with Return To The Tea Dance. (2014, November 3). Today. Retrieved from Today website: http://www.todayonline.com/entertainment/music/revisit-singapores-pop-history-return-tea-dance
31. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 32–34. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)



Further resource
Singapore pop ’60s – The Trailers. [CD]. (2004). Singapore: Golden Venus Records.
(Call no.: RSING 782.42163 THE)



The information in this article is valid as at 13 July 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Arts>>Music>>Popular music
Music
Popular music--Singapore
Bands (Music)--Singapore
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Music